Frank Merriwell's Limit

CHAPTER XI.
THE TRICK TURNED.

The fight was on, Stripped to their waists, the enemies faced each other in the roped-off space. The owner of the gym. had insisted that four-ounce gloves he used; but a man may be knocked out in a hurry with gloves of that weight.

Pike and Merriwell were watching their men. Crocker was the referee.

Badger advanced with confidence in his sneering smile. Bart's face was like stone.

They sparred a bit, and then Badger attempted to press Hodge. Bart gave ground, watching like a hawk.

The spectators began to offer advice.

"Corner him, Badg."

"This is no sprinting match."

"Did we come to see a long-distance race?"

"Brace up, Hodge."

"Yes, brace up; it'll all be over in a minute. Just let Badger get one good crack at you."

Bart's ears seemed deaf. He continued to give ground till Buck ran him into a corner. Then there was a sharp exchange of blows, and the Kansan attempted to close in.

Right there Bart carried out Frank's instructions, and Badger was knocked down.

The spectators rose to their feet and howled. This was the beginning of the astonishment.

Badger got up quickly, and again he found Hodge wary and watchful. He was astonished by the coolness of the fellow, for Bart had appeared quite different on the former occasion.

Badger had learned a lesson. He began to realize that Hodge was in this to win, and he settled down with more earnestness. If he had thought to make a spectacle of Bart, he gave up that idea then.

Hodge showed himself clever in feints, parries, counters and ducks. He fought a good defensive battle, but Badger seemed all the time on the offensive. At the close of the first round the Westerner got Bart in a tight corner and hammered him pretty hard.

Bart's nose was bleeding when the round finished, and he looked rather bad as compared with Badger. He sat on Merriwell's knee, permitting the blood to be sponged off, and quietly said:

"I have him, Merriwell. Never kept so cool in a fight before, and I can see that it counts. All the time, when anything happened to excite me and make me lose my head, I could feel you here, even if I could not see you, and it held me steady."

"Good boy!" whispered Frank. "He thinks he has you because he set your nose bleeding."

Bart smiled cruelly.

"Who minds that! I'll do him a worse turn in short order when the time comes!"

They faced each other again, and Hodge continued his defensive style of fighting. That led Badger on for a while, and Bart seemed getting the worst of it.

"This round ends it," declared Donald Pike. "Badger is going to get in the knock-out."

Browning, Rattleton, Diamond and others of Merriwell's set were there. They looked on ruefully, for they were not in the secret.

"Hodge is getting licked!" panted the Virginian. "It's a shame! I didn't suppose Merriwell would permit this."

"I feel hot enough to slip into the duggle-I mean dip into the struggle," spluttered Harry.

"If I were in condition," rumbled Browning, "I'd have a go at the fellow after he does Hodge."

The second round was drawing to a close, and still Badger did not seem quite able to put Bar out. Suddenly the style of the fighting changed. Hodge seemed to go into it with snap and vim, and it was fierce fro a few moments. In those few moments, Buck Badger was again sent to the floor, and once more the spectators were brought up shouting.

When the round was over there was a buzz of excitement. Somehow, it seemed that more than one of those fellows began to suspect something and from ten to one the odds on Hodge changed to two to one.

"Push him a little, next time, Bart," advised Frank. "You have him worried now."

"I know it. That's what I've been playing for," said Hodge.

Don Pike pretended to be laughing as he talked to Badger, but Frank fancied Pike was wondering how the affair would turn out.

Pretty soon Badger and Hodge were called to face each other again. Evidently Badger had been instructed to go in and make short work of it, for he rushed Hodge a little at first, and Bart was hammered pretty bad. However, he did not seem to mind it at all. His face looked bad, but he kept coming for more, with his eyes open for the right opportunity. Twice he was dropped to his knees, but he recovered before he could be counted out.

Badger did the rushing at the first of the round, and Bart took his turn later. He went into it with all his peculiar dash and vim, and the Westerner found himself "up against it." The scene threw the spectators into the wildest excitement, and once Hodge seemed to be losing his head. In the midst of the uproar, a voice reached his ears:

"Steady!"

It was Merriwell, and he was steady enough after that. Of a sudden, he saw the very opening he wanted, and he took advantage of it. Badger received a crack on the neck that made him blind and caused him to lower his hands. Then Hodge swung with all his strength and landed the point of the fellow's jaw.

Badger dropped like a log and lay there. The excitement was intense while he was slowly counted out.

It was all over, and Hodge had whipped the Westerner. "It was more than an hour before the fellow recovered from that jolt enough to get his scattered senses back," said Browning. "Oh, Hodge, you're a bird!"

"By Jove!" exclaimed Diamond; "I began to fear his neck was broken! I thought he'd never come round. How did you ever hit him such a fearful slam, Hodge?"

"Oh, I happened to know a way of doing it," said Bart, with a dark, mysterious smile, looking at Merriwell, who was not saying a single word. "it's taken all the starch out of Mr. Badger," asserted Halliday. "They say he's limp as a rag, and I don't believe he'll ever shoot his mouth off any more."

"Anyhow," said Jim Hooker, "he can't say anything about Merriwell till after he has shown himself a match for Merriwell's chums."

"Let me tell you one thing," said Hodge. "I did not defeat Badger all by my lonesome self."

"Didn't?" they shouted.

"No."

"Why, how was that?"

"I had help."

"Oh, say--"

"That is on the level."

"What sort of help?"

"I was shown just exactly how to do the job by one who knew the trick."

"Who?" they asked.

"Frank Merriwell," he answered.

[THE END.]

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